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Frazetta: Painting with Fire (2003)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 8 May 2003 (USA)
For over 50 years, Frank Frazetta dominated the art world with his images of fierce warriors, helpless princesses, and fantastical creatures set in the most lavish landscapes. His impact ... See full summary »

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Credited cast:
Eleanor Frazetta ... Herself
... Himself
Heidi Frazetta ... Herself
... Himself
Simon Bisley ... Himself
John Buscema ... Himself
... Himself
... Herself
... Himself
Joe Jusko ... Himself
Dave Stevens ... Himself
Al Williamson ... Himself
David Winiewicz ... Himself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Neal Adams ... Himself
... Himself
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For over 50 years, Frank Frazetta dominated the art world with his images of fierce warriors, helpless princesses, and fantastical creatures set in the most lavish landscapes. His impact upon the worlds of fantasy art and film was unparalleled, and it can be seen to this day in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Amazingly, he managed to do this while nearly dying because of an undiagnosed thyroid condition. Even more astonishing was his ability to survive six strokes, which forced him to switch from drawing with his right hand to drawing with his left hand. The film documents the life and work of this legendary fantasy artist while exploring the universal theme of inspiration. Visual effects are used in a very unique way to bring his paintings to life. And when you combine this technique with an outstanding original score, it makes for a very original documentary. Bo Derek, Ralph Bakshi, John Milius, Glenn Danzig, and Forrest Ackerman are just a few of the people who appear in this ... Written by Anonymous

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8 May 2003 (USA)  »

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Crazy Credits

After the credits there is a brief skit showing Ralph Bakshi pretending to steal a painting hidden under his shirt. See more »

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Features Fire and Ice (1983) See more »

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Frazetta: The Man, The Myth & The Art
5 September 2005 | by See all my reviews

I recently received a present of the Ralph Bakshi animated film "FIRE & ICE" and was shocked to see the documentary "Painting With Fire" included on Disc-2 (well done Blue Underground).

I quickly slipped the disc into the player and pressed "play"...

Right, I'm a Frank Frazetta enthusiast and so I was thinking there's NO way they'll do a good documentary on this fabled artist. Wrong! They did a good job indeed.

The feature-length documentary covers Frazetta's early life and fills in the missing blanks about what he did in the years when he had to fend for himself. For an artist who is extremely private and reclusive, this film peeled back the layers of mystery and revealed the man beneath. It's a very intimate portrait and one that throws light on many aspects of his life as a sportsman and a devoted family man.

The film opens with an absolutely stunning 3-D rendering of the Clayburn Moore "Conan the Barbarian" statue and the painting literally comes to life and moves. The facial bones twitch and the eyes of the Barbarian blaze with intense fire, the sword drips with blood and the slave girl grips onto his leg with unbridled lust conveyed in her luscious legs and flowing hair and across the sky huge vultures circle for the meat on the pile of corpses that the Barbarian stands knee deep in. Skulls lie crushed all around and the sun drips golden fire all over the landscape behind this mighty warrior.

What a truly inspirational opening to the film.

I adored the method used to illustrate and showcase the oil paintings. The colours were rich and the lighting was magnificent. It was like seeing the artworks for the first time. It's one thing seeing them in books and another thing to see them displayed on the screen in such vivid detail. And, what a lovely surprise it was to see rare sketches and variant versions of some of Frazetta's paintings in this film.

Director Lance Laspina's method of using "chapters" to sketch though Frazetta's life reminded me of a book-style presentation and it worked splendidly. This was a very effective format and allowed the viewer to focus in on the different aspects of Frazetta's varied life.

It was great to see Frazetta talk and reminisce about the old days. And despite his ill-health this man is still a fighter! And I noticed that in MANY of the paintings it is Frazetta himself who is the central figure for the model. Just take a careful look at "Conan the Adventurer" (the Clayburn statue) and you'll realize it's none other than Frazetta himself! The lighting in the film really brought out subtle details that are missing in the books. The art had much greater shading and revealed acres of stuff that the books can never get close to due to their "flat" printing process and the quality of paper used.

It was interesting to note that because Frazetta had such a busy life as a sportsman, he sometimes ran out of time for his commissions and was thus reduced to painting the pieces in a matter of hours. If he had run out of paper he would simply tear out a plank of wood from the floorboard and use that as a canvas. He would make a pot of coffee, put on a classical record and finish the painting in six hours or so. He'd then spend a week recovering from this intense battle between his creative juices and his physical body. His hands would literally shake with the exertion after painting these pieces. The impulse and speed of the work actually lent his finished pieces a rawness and savagery that is sorely lacking in the works of other painters such as Boris Vallejo.

The film also discussed the influence that Frazetta has had on the world of movies, literature and art. John Milius, Simon Bisley, Ralph Bakshi, Joe Jusko, Sylvester Stallone, George Lucas, Bernie Wrightson, Clint Eastwood, Michael Kaluta, Steven Spielberg, etc, have all been influenced by Frazetta.

And to compare Frazetta to Michelangelo and Da Vinci was valid. Frazetta is sometimes ignored by the Fine Art community because he is often regarded as an "illustrator". Well, in that case, so were all the past greats because they also illustrated books e.g. The Holy Bible. I think there is idle snobbery levelled at Frazetta because his subject matter usually depicts Fantasy scenes. Nevertheless, Frazetta does not need to prove himself to the Art critics because this man can paint with oils, water-colours, ink, he has produced prints and worked on canvas and also delivered stunning sculptures. A man of many talents then! Just like his fellow painters from the Renaissance period.

It was monumental to see how, after several strokes that left his right arm almost paralyzed, Frazetta taught himself to paint and draw with his left hand. What a great example he is to all of us.

I would have preferred this film to have run for six hours but I can't complain too much since they did cover many of the bases. Even the end credits proved to be fun. Laspina left a little clip after the film closed for the fans - we see Ralph Bakshi walking away from the Frazetta museum with a huge stolen canvas stuck under his shirt! All I now need to do is see the Special Edition of this documentary which contains a second disc of supplemental material where we see Frazetta drawing a panther and the picture gallery contained on the DVD is supposed to be brilliant.

Blue Underground should be congratulated for producing such a lovingly created package.

Highly Recommended.


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